Jill Wyatt investigates how Windsor High school used sport to boost achievement across the curriculum, seeing increases in independent learning and confidence as a result

Increased motivation, improved independent learning and better decision making are just some of the results Windsor High School boasts following four years’ involvement in the PESS investigation, which it joined in 2004, two years after being designated a specialist sports college.

The school identified increasing its Year 10 pupils’ motivation and confidence in PE lessons as a key initial objective, which it decided could be best met by offering a range of courses that matched their needs and interests. With this in mind, it introduced the BTEC First – a vocational course to balance the GCSE option – and the Certificate of Achievement, designed to appeal to those pupils who would enjoy a course with a more practical emphasis.

Pupils in Year 10 who were already showing great promise in coaching children in local primary schools were fast-tracked to the Junior Sports Leader Award (JSLA) course, with the remainder lined up to follow in their footsteps in Year 11.

A decision to keep the ability groups created in Year 9 in place for Key Stage 4 – formerly they had been mixed at this point – proved popular and a further source of motivation for most pupils.

The results from these initiatives were promising, clearly demonstrating that pupils were becoming more confident as the year progressed. In a survey at the end of the year, 75 per cent of Year 10 pupils felt more confident in demonstrating what they could do, while 67 per cent claimed to be more willing to try out new roles and 63 per cent thought that they contributed more in lessons.

Asked if this work had helped them in other lessons or in school life, 72 per cent of pupils said that they were generally more confident about making contributions in other lessons and being able to ask others to do things. Some said that their communication skills had improved and others felt that coaching younger pupils had given them insight into the challenges faced by teachers, which had in turn improved their own behaviour in lessons.

Interaction between pupils also improved, especially between boys and girls working together. Other positive indicators included more pupils than ever before asking to be house seniors, an almost three-fold increase in the numbers doing National Governing Body Awards and 20 pupils starting JSLA a year earlier than intended.

Windsor High School in profile

This mixed comprehensive school in Halesowen, West Midlands, which was designated a specialist sports college in 2002, caters for 1,376 pupils aged 11 to 16. It has been awarded both Artsmark Gold and Sportsmark Gold.

A very high proportion of pupils attending the school are of average or just above average ability and the number on the school’s register of special educational needs is well below the national average. The percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals is just below the national average and around six per cent of pupils are of minority ethnic origin.

The school’s extensive facilities for PESS include two gymnasiums, a field with two soccer pitches and an athletics track, Astroturf, an all-weather cricket pitch, netball and tennis courts, a purpose-built dance studio and a fitness suite and dedicated PE classroom with ICT facilities.

A programme of action
Spurred on by these results, Windsor High School intensified its programme of change. An analysis of its strengths and weaknesses pinpointed shortfalls which it addressed through formulating the following new objectives for the coming year:

  • increasing the number of pupils displaying the PESS high quality outcomes
  • offering pupils a wider range of accreditation opportunities in core PE at Key Stage 4
  • formalising the leadership opportunities on offer and opening these to all pupils
  • increasing the number of pupils in Years 7 to 11 taking responsibility and showing confidence in lessons and extracurricular activities
  • improving pupils’ understanding of key concepts in PE and improving their decision
  • making skills
  • improving the confidence of pupils in lower ability groups to demonstrate and lead others.

With the new objectives in mind, staff made a concerted effort to use assemblies and PE lessons to keep pupils informed of all the PE and school sport opportunities open to them. A member of staff was given specific responsibility for the PE out-of-hours programme, including organisation, troubleshooting, data collection, promotion and reporting back twice yearly to the subject leader.

Theme evenings run by PE staff and/or outside coaches were introduced to give pupils from all year groups opportunities to get active, alongside new opportunities for out-of-hours activities such as boxing, girls’ rugby, fitness, rhythmic gymnastics and ballet.

There was also a strong emphasis on the use of assessment for learning to enable Key Stage 3 pupils to evaluate their own and others’ performances, set targets and plot their way through programmes. Pupils’ assessment sheets were used for each unit of work, pupil-friendly level descriptors were written to help with target setting and assessment for learning work cards were introduced to help pupils lead activities independently.

The work previously centred on Year 10 was built on by the introduction of a programme that channelled some pupils into sport education (officiating and leading) and others into performance and participating. The data from these units will be used in the future to offer some pupils an opportunity to follow GCSE short course JSLA and Dance Leaders Award during core PE in Year 11.

Developing leadership skills
In January 2005, to address the lack of clear structure or monitoring process identified by the school as a shortfall in the leadership opportunities arising in PE lessons, a five-point scale for leadership and organisation was launched for all pupils in Key Stages 3 and 4.

As part of this, all pupils were required to keep a log book to record their leadership activities, such as working with primary school groups, assisting coaches in after-school clubs, delivering partnership primary tournaments, organising and running house events and assisting in the holiday programme.

To supplement these leadership opportunities, 80 pupils were trained as house leaders. For the first time, sport and non-sport leaders were trained separately, with 50 pupils training once a week for a month specifically to organise and run house sports events.

To reward pupils’ participation and performance, a system of certification called the PE Profile was introduced. This operated at three levels (bronze, silver and gold) and pupils had to achieve a participation rate of over 90 per cent in PE lessons in order to qualify for consideration. This initiative allowed some pupils to gain a record of their achievements in PESS for the
first time.

Measuring outcomes
The changes that the PE department made to teaching and learning at Key Stage 3 produced encouraging results for Windsor High School:

  • 50 Year 9 pupils opted for BTEC (PE-related) courses in 2007, an increase of almost 50 per cent
  • 38 pupils (up 12 per cent) opted for a Level 1 award in sports leadership through curriculum enrichment; in addition, over 10 per cent of pupils in Years 7 to 10 signed up for the school’s own five-point leadership scale
  • participation rates in out-of-hours activities rose to 59 per cent (up 15 per cent).

In addition, staff evaluation revealed:

  • an increase in pupils’ motivation, and not only in the top groups
  • an improvement in pupils’ skills and control, with half of PE staff grading pupils at amber/green (at least 50 per cent+ consistently demonstrating
  • the characteristics) and the other half at green (at least
  • 75 per cent+)
  • a rise in the number of pupils able to demonstrate good decision making in games
  • improvement in independent learning through all areas, especially in the leadership modules.
Ofsted’s verdict on Windsor High School: “An effective school with a number of outstanding features which leads the field in its promotion of healthy and safe lifestyles.”


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